Dr. Covaci Curates Japanese Buddhist Sculpture Exhibition in NYC
Dr. Ive Covaci, adjunct professor of art history in the Visual and Performing Arts Department, recently celebrated the opening of an exhibition, which she co-curated, on Japanese Buddhist sculpture at the Asia Society Museum in New York City.
The exhibition, Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan, runs through May 8 and is located at 725 Park Avenue (at 70th street). It is the first exhibition in the United States in 30 years to focus on this period (1185-1333).
“Some of the works have rarely – if ever – been on display,” said Dr. Covaci. “We were fortunate to be able to include several sculptures by Kaikei (active ca 1183-1223), one of the most renowned artists of the period, as well as works signed by other master sculptors.”
Dr. Covaci, an expert in medieval Japanese art, first began planning for this exhibition five years ago with Dr. Adriana Proser, the Asia Society Museum’s senior curator of traditional Asian art.
“Sculptures of the Kamakura period are some of the most realistic, technically sophisticated, and beautiful works in Japanese art history, so we thought it would be wonderful to do a show on the period,” said Dr. Covaci. “Most people don’t realize that there are many superb examples of Kamakura sculpture in public and private collections across the United States. We wanted to bring these works together to show the artistic expression of this period, but also to illuminate the role of these icons in Buddhist ritual and devotional practices.”
The exhibition had a very successful opening, with Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Japan, and Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, Consul General of Japan in New York, in attendance. Critical response to the exhibition has also been positive – The New York Times called it "spellbinding" while The New York Review of Books described it as “rapturously beautiful.”
Later this semester, Dr. Covaci will be taking students from her art history class “Arts of Asia” for a special, behind-the-scenes tour of the Kamakura exhibit. Students in the course include art history majors and minors as well as those taking the course to fulfill a core or world diversity requirement.
“Visiting museums and shows of Asian art is always an important part of my courses, but this semester I am especially excited about sharing the exhibition with them,” Dr. Covaci said.
Dr. Marice Rose, director of the Art History Program, said, “Our students are fortunate to be in Dr. Covaci's classroom. They benefit immensely from her expertise and innovative research on medieval Japanese art, by learning not only about the artworks but new ways to study them.”
Pictured: Dr. Ive Covaci (far right) with Ambassadors Kennedy and Takahashi
Kamakura period, early 14th century
Japanese cypress (hinoki) with pigment, gold powder, and cut gold leaf (kirikane)
Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.205
Photography by Synthescape, courtesy of Asia Society